Op-Ed: The Oasis of Middle East Calm and Cooperation
Ron JagerThe writer, a 25-year veteran of the I.D.F., served as a field mental health officer. Prior to retiring in 2005, served as the Commander of the Central Psychiatric Military Clinic for Reserve Soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty, he provides consultancy services to NGO’s implementing Psycho trauma and Psycho education programs to communities in the North and South of Israel. He is currently a strategic advisor at the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria. To contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
As we gaze at the countries that surround Israel - and at the entire Middle East - we see nothing but chaos and deadly conflict, with sovereign Arab states on one side and Arab leaders butchering their own people on the other side.
Suddenly, it seems as if all of this primal Islamic rage just popped out of nowhere. Every day another report exposes the barbaric behavior of our neighbors irrespective of and totally unrelated to Israel.
Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Arab nations have succeeded in distracting world attention from their own internal problems focusing international attention exclusively on Israel through the prism of the never ending conflict with the Palestinian Arabs. From a public relations perspective, they have succeeded all along the line, convincingly portraying Israel as an illegitimate state, blurring the distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, that has no right to defend herself against the Islamic terror from within and without.
Despite the Arab nations lagging behind technologically, unable to feed their own people without foreign assistance - or even manufacture a world class bicycle - they have invested enormous amounts of resources to manufacture the “big lie” vis-à-vis the Palestinian Arabs and have successfully elevated a false and biased narrative convincing the world that we are modern day occupiers of the land of Israel.
To the surprise of many senior foreign journalists stationed in Israel, the sea of bedlam and anarchy just beyond Israel’s borders has brought to light an interesting development that might otherwise be considered unworthy of being reported. It seems that the greater the violence and bloodshed just over the border, the greater the significance and meaning of the relatively cordial relations and cooperation between Jews and Arabs here in Judea and Samaria becomes.
Interestingly, while the whole Middle East has exploded into armed conflict along religious, tribal and feudal lines, the level of co-existence of Jews and Palestinian Arabs has grown significantly higher, approaching the relatively good relations between Jews and Arabs in the period that preceded the Oslo Agreement.
Over 20,000 Palestinian Arabs work every day in Jewish communities and industrial parks located in Judea and Samaria.
During the past month, in conjunction with the Government Press Office led by Nitzan Chen and the Office of the Chief Foreign Envoy of Judea and Samaria led by Dani Dayan, over 60 foreign journalists stationed in Israel toured industrial parks and factories in Judea and Samaria, witnessing how Jews and Palestinian Arabs work side by side on assembly lines and in management, both groups entering the factories through the same entrance, both using the same dining hall, both having the same worker compensation rights and paid vacation, both enjoying the benefits of Israel’s relative economic prosperity.
With over 20,000 Palestinian Arabs working every day in Jewish communities and industrial parks located in Judea and Samaria, there can be no denying that labels of occupation and apartheid are devoid of any meaning.
Almost immediately these journalists understand that much of what they knew and have been reporting stands in dark contrast to the true narrative and complex reality that one encounters in Judea and Samaria.
Almost immediately they understand that international accusations and attempts to present Israel as an apartheid-based society are totally false, They encounter the very opposite, an oasis of co-existence. They also understand that the situation in not without ups and downs, but can certainly be depicted as a success story, especially in light of what is transpiring just beyond Israel’s borders.
The journalists are presented with personal acquaintances of “settlers” working alongside Palestinian Arabs and have heart-to-heart talks with Palestinian Arabs who have only good things to report about their Jewish co-workers. Suddenly the self-imposed cataracts have been removed, the 'settlers' don’t have horns, they look like human beings, they speak the language of human beings. Suddenly the natural inclination to report on the 'settlers' through the prism of politics becomes uncomfortable. The reality is much more complex, and much more positive.
Being thrust into an oasis of co-existence in Judea and Samaria was not something that was easily digested by these journalists. A good example of the dissonance that they experienced was exemplified by the words of a Palestinian Arab worker they met. He told them that if the boycott of settler products becomes widespread, factories in Judea and Samaria will close down or slim down operations. The most immediate effect of this will be that of Palestinian Arab workers being sent home and joining the ranks of the unemployed.
The journalists were surprised to hear that the Palestinian Authority, despite the billions of dollars provided by the Western nations, has no unemployment insurance or other benefits to assist the local Arab population. Who picks up the slack? Agents of Hamas operating under the pretense of social welfare workers, asking only for one thing in return for their help, support Hamas.
The journalists understood that the EU boycott initiated by the Palestinian Authority was self-defeating, detrimental to the well-being of the Palestinian Arab workers who have opted to work alongside Israelis, and comparable to shooting themselves in the foot.
What is transpiring today in Judea and Samaria is the real narrative of Judea and Samaria, co-existence, growing from the ground up and making a positive impact that cannot be denied by even the most implacable enemies of the State of Israel.
Go see for yourself - Palestinian Arabs and Jewish “settlers” working side by side in factories, in stores, wineries and restaurants throughout Judea and Samaria, an oasis of co-existence in a sea of conflict tearing apart the Middle East.